Reception ideas for small wedding with uncomfortable family dynamic?

posted 2 years ago in Reception
Post # 2
9961 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

If you have 25 people can you just sit them at opposite ends by people they would like and talk to?

I like the idea of bowling or something like that.

Post # 3
7416 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

Table games could just exaggerate the problem– you are basically dividing people into groups and if you don’t want to micro-manage and assign people to groups, you could end up with your parents in even closer quarters than without the games. Bowling or laser tag would work if you are having a VERY casual wedding and if your guests would respect a very casual dress code; otherwise, folks are not going to be dressed for activities like that (and you shouldn’t expect them to change their clothes after dinner– it’s not polite to expect them to bring another outfit and drag it around all night).

You may want to look into “alternative” dining experiences like murder mystery dinners, culinary “school” experiences (not sure how to describe it but this restaurant in WIlliamsburg VA has a local celebrity chef who will cooks while the guests watch and so forth, so dinner is long enough to be the only event of the evening, and interactive enough that no one feels like they’re all alone, but guests don’t have to interact directly with each other if they don’t want to.

Post # 4
9961 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

Horseradish :  To add to her list, what about a distillery tour and tasting? I don’t drink but we did one for my friends birthday last year and it was really educational and fun, even for me.

Post # 5
958 posts
Busy bee

Just have a nice dinner somewhere. If u have close neutral friends who are positive and good at socialising, sit ur parents further apart and keep one or two friends/family members to neutralise situation. Ur in laws can be seated nearby in a neutral manner. If u r close to ur Future In-Laws they’d help to diffuse possible situations. Just make sure u brief everyone (except ur parents) to make things as comfy as it can be. All best!

Post # 6
883 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2019

I don’t have any specific suggestions of activities, especially because I think there is only so much you can diffuse in these kind of situations and a lot of it comes down to their ingoing attitude towards the situation and ability to do what they can to keep the peace. Is it possible for you to talk to them each separately about the day? They may have some ideas about what might help before and during the day. I’m a huge believer in just going to people in this situation and letting them talk it out and express what they want. It also may be that you have to set your expectations accordingly. It may be that no matter what it’s going to be a bit awkward and emotional between the two of them and it’s just about everyone collectively managing it as best as possible.

Post # 8
12217 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

I think you are better off having separate tables than either one large one or an activity. I attended a small wedding with a similar situation where they did this. The exes really didn’t have to have anything to do with one another at all. 

Post # 9
2604 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2017 - Valleybrook Country Club

To echo PPs, I think a murder mystery dinner or a distillery/brewery tasting and tour would be awesome!

Post # 10
7038 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

Honestly I think you’re really overthinking things. I think it’s great you want to be sensitive to your mom’s feelings but they’re all adults….they can deal with it for a few hours to celebrate your wedding.

Stick with your plan of having an intimate wedding with a nice dinner. Let the dinner organically flow for however long it takes and then let it end. No need to plan games or activities, once dinner is over and everyone has had their fill of mingling they’ll all go home.

For seating I’d do one long table w/ you and your Darling Husband in the middle. Have your mom on one side, dad on the other side, and the ILs across from you. That way your parents aren’t seated next to each other but are still in range to have a convo with the ILs and you two.

I totally get it, I come from a divorced family as does my Darling Husband. Thankfully enough years have passed that everything is ok now. That being said, my brother did something super similar to what you are planning and the struggle came in because his ILs are the crappiest people ever. They’re weird, judgemental, and do not like to socialize which made things awkward. They’re so un-enjoyable to be around that my mom & stepmom sat next to each other and talked just so they didn’t have to chat with his ILs.

Post # 11
704 posts
Busy bee

I am in a similar boat as you. My mom and dad have been divorced since I was 4 (I’m 25 now) and my dad met and married my stepmom when I was 7. My dad and stepmom HATE my mother and my mother HATES my dad and stepmom, so this is going to be an awkward wedding to say the least – espeically since it’ll be small (around 30-35 people). I want to keep them separate as much as possible, but I am defintely dreading family pics because I have no idea how that will play out. Like my parents hate each other so much they will refuse to be in the same pic as one another. I actually feel bad for the photographer trying to navigate who is allowed to be in pictures with who. Both my mom, dad, and stepmom promised me they would behave but I am a little worried once my mom starts drinking that she’ll say or do something to them. This is how I’m going to handle it: I found a resturant that does weddings. They have a spot for the ceremony and after the ceremony there will be a quick cocktail hour, followed by a sit down dinner. No dancing, no games, nothing that will make them have to interact with one another. The only time they will cross paths is during the cocktail hour but I know my mom will stay around her family and my dad/stepmom will stay around his. However, what is going to be awkward is my dad’s family love love loves my mom and they don’t like my stepmom very much; so that’ll be fun. I am going to sit them far apart for the dinner so hopefully that’ll ease some tension. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I know how difficult it can be when navigating divorced parents and all the feelings/tension that comes with it. 

Post # 12
5886 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: April 2013

KDoodle :  I think the idea of an alternative activity is fun, especially if your group is laid back and a bit non-traditional.

Here’s a post from APW with a few pics of a bowling after part at a wedding: 

That said, I also thinkit’s ok to just expect your parents to be civil.  Your mom is hurting, but it soudns like they are grown ups, and more time will have passed by then.

Post # 13
395 posts
Helper bee

Oh I think the alternative to dancing is awesome. First, unless people are into dancing ie dance club, have a partner, or quite young I find that really dances are passe. You need a very good dj – and so many scrimp and diy and sorry there is a reason why people are trained as dj’s it is hard to get people to join in. Add to that age differences. I have been to over 60 weddings and to see blaring music and no one on the dance floor or a few hard corepeople or worse drunks is kind of a buzz or party kill. Table top games, casino night and getting ticketsto get some fun prizes at the end or video versions of Family feud or price is right or whatever with prizes can be fun. You can carefully plan the teams or events for the split up parents and there is nothinglike the adrenilineof trying to win to make people forget thigns (or just trying to survive in a game lol). Also,remember your parents will probably want you to be happy as well and on their best behaviour and giving their Academy award performance.

Post # 14
47203 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

I would  find a restaurant with a private room. Plan a wonderful multi course dinner with wine pairings and enjoy the best dinner of your life.

Alow the evening to follow its’ natural course and end when it ends. I don’t get dressed up for a wedding to play lazer tag or table games.

Post # 15
733 posts
Busy bee

Our wedding was only 25 people with dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards. We did a big family style table, and used place cards to ensure there wouldn’t be any drama (I have some strained family dynamics too) so I could sit certain people far away from others.

Good luck!

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